If we simplify what is language, we see it as a structured set of written characters or sounds, representing things in our natural world. We can look at the past for examples of this, shown by Egyptian hieroglyphics or cave drawings by our ancient ancestors. While both are not only different in a visual sense, both are also different in age. However, they both were born for the same purpose; to tell a story. If you think about this a little deeper, you realize that if the purpose of language is to tell a story, then language must be how the story is told. Better said, language is the tool we use to communicate with one another.

What distinguishes language from other forms of communication is that it follows a certain set of rules in order to effectively communicate with one another.

Symbols and icons are related to language because they stand in place of words, representing an idea or thing while communicating through a drawing. Society has attached meaning to symbols and while symbols aren’t a language, they are equivalent to words within a language.

I believe language has shaped design historically in the sense that it has encouraged us to ask ourselves if we can boil words down to graphic images and furthermore, simplify an entire language into graphic elements. However, culture is what really shaped design more than language. A symbol can mean two very different things to different people depending on their society’s interpretation.

On another note, I wouldn’t say there things language can’t communicate, however, I think in ways design can communicate more effectively. The reason for that is because images can sometimes be a lot more impactful, communicating a variety of messages at a quick glance, instead of a slower process that you must know and work to understand.